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Rodney Anderson, Carl Lawson shine as Bengals fall to Giants 25-23

Running back Rodney Anderson made magic his preseason debut, while Geno Atkins, Carl Lawson, and Jake Dolegala also made their debuts.

NFL: Preseason-New York Giants at Cincinnati Bengals Bob Meyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals’ preseason home opener against the Giants featured a multitude of reunions between coaches and players, as well as numerous changes to the starting lineup. Cincinnati fell just short at the end, but much was learned regarding what the final roster will end up looking like.

New York struck first with the help of Wayne Gallman, who rushed for 27 yards on four carries. His key contribution came on a fourth-and-inches play where he picked up the first down to get the ball into the red zone. But the Giants couldn’t move the ball any further, so they settled for a 41-yard field goal from Aldrick Rosas with 7:00 left in the first quarter.

The Bengals finally started moving the chains late in the first quarter. Andy Dalton was 2-5 on his first two drives, but on the third drive he completed all five of his passes. The passing game accounted for all 70 yards on that drive and five different receivers got involved.

The longest and final pass came on a 26-yard touch pass that went right over the safety’s head and right into the arms of C.J. Uzomah. Randy Bullock made the extra point and the Bengals took their first lead of the game, 7-3 with nine seconds left in the first quarter.

With Daniel Jones under center for the Giants, the offense moved into the red zone in one play off of a deep pass to Brittan Golden. Despite a forced fumble by Carl Lawson, Jones hit Darius Slayton on the sideline for a 27-yard gain to get to the one-yard line. Rod Smith pounded the ball into the end zone, and after the Rosas kick the Giants retook the lead, 10-7 with 6:22 left in the second quarter.

Ryan Finley led the Bengals to a lengthy drive to close out the half. The 12-play drive nearly took six minutes off he clock, but only moved the ball 48 yards. Bullock nailed a 50-yard kick with 29 seconds left, resulting in a tie game at 10-10 going into halftime.

Going into the locker room, several players stood out for better or for worse. Damion Willis had an incredible grab to overcome pass interference. All in all, Willis’ odds of making kept getting better and better.

Tony McRae, on the other hand, started as the slot cornerback and looked rough for the whole first half. The Giants looked like they were targeting him, and that strategy paid off. O’Shea Dugas also had some lowlights at backup left tackle. Both McRae’s and Dugas’ stock regressed in the first half.

Rodney Anderson and Carl Lawson made their preseason debuts and both looked like they were back to full health. Anderson only had 10 yards on four carries in the first half, but ran behind an offensive line that looked quite bad. In open space, he had two receptions for 16 yards. Lawson had the forced fumble on Jones and gave Nate Solder a handful the entire first half.

Anderson continued his strong first half with a couple ankle-breaking plays early in the second half. He broke out a 17-yard catch and and 18-yard catch, making a couple defenders miss on each play. It wasn’t enough, though, as the Bengals turned the ball over on downs later that drive.

Jake Dolegala made his preseason debut at the end of the third quarter and went four-for-four for 45 yards and a touchdown on his first professional drive. After unloading a 34-yard pass to Ventell Bryant, Dolegala tossed a fade to Willis for a three-yard touchdown. Including a five-yard contribution from Jordan Ellis, the first scoring drive of the fourth quarter was an all-undrafted rookie effort. Bullock hit the extra point and the Bengals went up 17-10 with 13:08 left in the game.

The third-string defense took the field, and fourth string quarterback Kyle Lauletta took the Giants to the Bengals’ one yard line, where Jon Hilliman pounded the ball into the end zone. They went for two, and Lauletta hit former Bengal Alonzo Russell for the conversion. The Giants took an 18-17 lead with 8:03 to go in the game.

The Bengals subsequently went three-and-out, and Golden returned the punt for a 68-yard touchdown. The Giants only went for one this time, and the kick extended the lead to 25-17 with 6:58 left in the game.

The Bengals went three-and-out again, but Golden had worse luck on the next return. The ball bounced right out of his hands and Mason Schreck dove on it to give the Bengals’ the game’s first turnover.

This time, the Bengals were able to move the chains and quickly made their way down to the end zone. Dolegala went four for four on the drive, and just like his first touchdown, lobbed a one-yard fade to the corner. Josh Malone was the recipient of this score and was targeted on the ensuing two point conversion. The pass was incomplete, but the Bengals cut the lead to 25-23 with 2:43 to go in the game.

The Giants kneeled the game out to preserve their 25-23 win. The Bengals, now 1-2, will play in one final preseason game at Paul Brown Stadium on August 29th.